Thursday, July 02, 2009

Google surveys the signees: Jonathan Evans

Because someone needs to do the work of plugging in a given Auburn signee's name into Google and synthesizing the tidbits of information that trickle out. Previous entries in this series here.

When you're talking about a team whose linebacking-requiring gauge is in the red and flashing CRITICAL but landed just three linebackers in their previous class, you would think it would be difficult for one of those three prospects to fly under the radar--particularly when they're the brother of a just-graduated Auburn linebacker who was of Auburn's steadier players over the past two seasons.

But with the lion's share of linebacker attention being paid to spring sensation (and Internet fan favorite, let's not forget) The Toro and most of the underrated sleeper upside talk focusing on athlete Harris Gaston, Jonathan Evans has managed it. (At least Chris can offer some sympathy after arriving at Auburn as an unheralded two-star. Check out that offer sheet!)

That may be about to change for Jonathan, however, since (as you know) as the losses of Marcus Jemison and Da'Shaun Barnes have left Auburn's linebacking depth chart thinner than thinnerson. Evans could be called on (and called on often) as soon as this season, so it's high time we got to know him.

Basics: Hit me, Auburn Signing Day info sheet:
Jonathan Evans
LB, 5-11, 202
Prichard, AL (Mattie T. Blount HS)
High School Coach: Kelvin Sigler

Had 93 total tackles (50 solos and 43 assists), two sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and one pass breakup as a senior ... Offensively, carried the ball 16 times for 110 yards and three touchdowns during his senior season ... Honorable mention All-State by the Alabama Sports Writers Association as a junior ... Ranked No. 16 on the Birmingham News' Super Seniors list ... Listed as the No. 18 prospect from Alabama by SuperPrep ... Named to PrepStar's All-Southeast Region team.
At 5-11, 202, Evans seems destined to fill in his brother's shoes as a quick-pursuing 'backer best-suited for the weakside but with enough hard-hitting bulk to play in the middle if need be.

Recruitnik hoo-ha: Unlike most other Auburn prospects--who saw their guru ratings land all over the place--the recruitniks pretty much all see the same thing when they look at Evans: a solidly three-star prospect somewhere between the top 30 and top 60 linebackers in the class. Rivals: a 5.6 grade, No. 42 OLB, No. 20 on their in-state list, right between Izauea Lanier and John Sullen. Scout: three stars, No. 31 WLB*. ESPN: grade of 77, No. 52 OLB. Their scouting report reads like so:
Evans lacks prototypical outside linebacker size but is a quick-twitched athlete with the skills needed to develop into a disruptive perimeter player in college ... Will need to add good bulk and strength to remain productive and durable in college but is pound-for-pound a strong kid with good toughness ... Covers a lot of ground and displays good overall range but may be better closing in the short-area with his great burst. Shows good body control and change-of-direction quickness mirroring quicker skill players on the perimeter. Solid and sound openfield tackler. Excels at chasing plays down from the backside as he struggles getting off blocks when teams run directly at him ... Will bring good coverage skills and range as pass supporter to the next level. Opens and turns smoothly, gets good depth in his drop and shows sound route awareness and pattern matching skills. However, we do have concerns about his lack of size ... Tends to get knocked off his pursuit by uncovered linemen and can get engulfed at the point of attack. A lot of tackles come down field. Needs to work on diagnosing the play quicker to slip blockers and refining hand escapes when engaged ... Could grow into productive weakside linebacker if he lands in a system that will cover him up and allow him to chase and attack the football.
In short: great in open space. Needs work in tight quarters.

Evans's offer sheet lines up with the "OK, not great" evaluation of the gurus: offer-machines Oklahoma St. and Tennessee (who Evans visited just before Signing Day) according to Rivals but past that, UAB, Southern Miss, South Alabama. And that's just Rivals--Scout doesn't list a second BCS-level offer.

Links of potential interest: Sorry, no free highlights I can find. Evans's ESPN clip reflects the scouting report above: on the film he doesn't make many tackles behind or even at the line of scrimmage (an unusual thing for a H.S. linebacking clip), but looks good in pursuit.

Aside from that, it's not easy finding Evans-related links. He made the in-state guru lists with some room to spare: he was No. 22 to Andrew Bone ("Evans is one of the best pure football players in the state. He needs to add weight and strength and conditioning") and No. 16 on the B'ham News Super Seniors list ("Undersized gem can really go after the ball"). Both represent some good-sized jumps from previous editions of those rankings.

If Evans's 40-time and bench press numbers are accurate--I'm a shade dubious--he may be a bit better athlete than he's being credit for. That's the tone taken by this random Internet article, anyway.

Lastly, here's an Evans quote that's not really about Evans himself but which you should read nonetheless:
"I talked to coach [James] Willis before I came down here. He told me to keep in touch with him. He said everything is straight. He is looking forward to me coming to Auburn and that he is going to be there."
Sure, he's going to be there, Jonathan. Sure he is.

What conclusions we can draw, if any: Evans does have one very, very strong piece of evidence arguing in his favor: he was an unheralded linebacker recruit during the Tubby/Willis regime. Players fitting that description didn't always work out, but they sure did more often than not, as Evans' own brother would be happy to tell you. If he was good enough for that staff, he should be good enough for Auburn, especially given the current carnage on the depth chart.

But we can be honest here, too: there doesn't seem to be a ton of upside with Evans. Scoff at the gurus if you like, but all three projected Auburn starters this fall were four-stars coming out of high school, and when there's a broad consensus--as in Evans's case--that a prospect doesn't have that kind of athletic explosiveness that leads to being a star, the odds are that it's not there.

Then again, those are just odds. And not every linebacker needs to be a star, either--sometimes, as with Chris, it's more than enough to spend a couple of seasons learning the ropes, adding pounds, and preparing, and then seizing the opportunity that eventually comes by tackling everything you can. If Jonathan can do that, and there's no reason to think he can't, Auburn fans will be just as happy to have him as we were to have his brother, regardless of whatever we or the gurus might have to say about his "upside."

*I'm assuming Scout wouldn't bother to rank strongside and weakside 'backers separately, but since their OLB rankings are on the fritz, I'm not 100-percent positive.

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